The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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A friend of mine who traveled a lot, returned from a trip to Africa (Ghana I think) and announced "everything goes with everything."   This meant apparently that one needn't fuss about colors or styles - one could simply wear anything with anything.   I have begun taking that perspective with bread.   Today I tried a formula where I baked with 68% bread flour, 16% rye, 15% semolina (not durum flour.)   As I was mixing it up, I had doubts.   Does everything really go with everything?   The bread is baked.    I still say yes.  

The formula with 68% hydration, 95% bread flour, 5% whole rye starter.

Semolina100 10015%
Starter260  24%
Salt12 121.8%

Mix all but salt and autolyze for 1 hour.   Add salt and mix.   Ferment for 3 hours with two stretch and folds on counter.    Cut and shape into batards.   Proof seam side up in couche for 2 hours.   Bake at 450F for 25 minutes with steam, 20 minutes without.  

This is tasty but just slightly overcooked.   I wish I'd removed after 40 minutes.   Also I meant to steam for 20 minutes, not 25 but I made a mistake with the timer and then got distracted before I could correct it.   I don't think that made a difference. 


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Ever since Franko posted his semolina filone I've been wanting to try it.   But I didn't want to follow Maggie Glezer's directions (recipe on p. 124 of Artisan Bread) completely since I wanted to adapt it to use a starter instead of a Poolish.    I also didn't have access to fine durum flour - just the big bag of Atta that I hauled home last week.   I have made a few tries at it - today's was my third.    It is the sourest bread I have made recently, with no change to my starter, so I assume it is a function of the fermentation of the durum.   The hardest part seemed to be to get proper opening of the scores.   I think I finally got it.   It wasn't any one thing - just getting a hang of the dough and making small changes to the formula.   The difference in flours meant that Franko's experience - particularly how much water required - didn't match mine.  

Perfect for an afternoon snack.

Formula - with 66% hydration starter 97% white, 3% rye.

Semolina Filone    
  Final Starter Total 
Atta Durum300 30057%
Bread flour10011921942%
Rye 551%
Starter205  24%
Salt10 101.9%


Mix all but salt.   Autolyze for 30 minutes.  Add salt.   Bulk Ferment for 3 hours with 2 stretch and folds.   (I didn't do mine evenly because of outages.)   Shape and dust with flour.   Place seam side up in couche.   Proof for 50 minutes.   Spritz with water and sprinkle sesame seeds.   Score down center flat to counter.   Bake at 400F for 20 minutes with steam, 25 minutes without.

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A few months ago I made a loaf of Russian coriander rye which was not Russian enough and way too coriandery.    I have been meaning to get back to it with changes since then but so much bread, so little time.   Today, I used that bread as a starting point and tried again in the process losing all of the Russian and most of the coriander.   This is a mostly dark rye bread with some spelt and wheat flour.   It uses a dark rye sour seeded from wheat starter.   It was quite wet, so I shaped by patting and stippled instead of scored.   The crust is covered by mixed seeds - sesame, poppy, caraway, and a tiny bit of coriander.   In my original version I used molasses, honey, and oil.   I ditched all of that this time.   Dark rye has plenty of flavor without the sweeteners and I couldn't remember what the oil was for.    All in all, a tasty rich bread.



The formula

Dark Rye
























Whole Rye





Dark Rye



































Whole Rye










Dark Rye




















Seed mix





baked pounds





total grams










Build starter the day before and leave on counter for 17 hours until very holey and sour smelling.   Mix all but salt and seeds.   Autolyze for 1 hour.   Mix in salt.   Move dough to wet bowl and pat into ball.   Brush top and sides with water.   Leave on counter until it expands a fair amount but not until dough shows signs of breakdown.    This took around 2 hours.   Flip onto parchment paper - I had to use a wet wooden spatula to get it out of the bowl since the dough was so sticky.   Brush out irregularities with a wet pastry brush.   Stipple with a fork.   Sprinkle with seed mix.    Bake at 450F on stone with steam for 25 minutes, and 25 without. 

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The other day, I accidentally picked up the wrong flour.    I thought I was grabbing the Bob's Red Mill White flour but instead ended up with BRM whole wheat pastry flour.   I'm not much for making pastry and the whole concept of whole wheat pastry eludes me, so I decided to try this flour in yet another variation on the pain au levain I've been experimenting with for the last few months.    On my first try I used the pastry flour as 12% of the total flour with 87% White flour and 1% rye from the starter.    The bread came out with a very nice crumb texture and not bad in other respects but the taste was so mild as to be uninteresting.    Then my son swooped in for a surprise visit for Mother's Day and ate the whole thing so it was good for son feeding at least.  

Try number 1 - tried to get fancy with scoring - didn't really work.

To enhance the flavor, I decided to mix in some regular whole wheat.    So this time I did exactly the same thing but went half and half on the pastry whole wheat flour and Arrowhead whole wheat.   

The latest production of the vardomatic 3000:

As you can see, it blew a gasket.   Not quite the nice controlled expansion that I'd hoped for.    And Mt. Hood from the side:

but even better crumb than the last one and the flavor is much enhanced.

There were both 68% hydration and retarded overnight.   Also I've increased percentage of prefermented flour to 23%.  After going all the way to 33% with Andy's light rye formula, I'm not afraid of these higher percentages anymore.     Has anyone worked with this type of flour before?   The BRM bag says soft white wheat, and there is no discernible bran.    I don't feel like I have a handle on the fermentation yet and would love some suggestions.  

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Recently Andy posted on his Pain Au Levain with Light Rye.  His formula was quite similar to something I had tried awhile ago with a major difference: the percentage of fermented flour, which was more than double what I had used (33.3% rather than 16%).   I decided to try Andy's approach.  I followed his directions with the following differences: I used my own idiosyncratic methods for refreshing starter mostly in the refrigerator,   scaled to half of his formula and made a single 1Kg batard,  reduced salt to 1% of flour so that my husband could eat it,  and retarded for 12 hours in addition to a 2.5 hour bulk ferment and combined (evening and morning) counter proof of 2.5 hours.   Finally, not having access to either of Andy's flours, I used KAAP and KA White Rye.  The profile of the resulting loaf was quite similar (and Mt. Vesuvius-like) to my earlier efforts and quite different from Andy's more miche-like structure.  

What took me totally by surprise though was the crumb.   While my earlier sour doughs with white rye had a certain density which allowed me to cut very thin slices without smashing the loaf, this one was lighter than air, and I had to cut even thick slices very carefully to keep from tearing apart the loaf:

Also, using the leave in the oven for 10 minutes with the door slightly propped open trick which Andy suggested for this loaf (and I've used with absolutely no success on many occasions) I got a nice singing crackly crust.

This is the first time I've tried to follow one of Andy's formulas, but certainly not the last.   Delicious!

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Matzo has two ingredients - flour and water.   It is supposed to be baked not more than a couple of minutes after adding the water to the flour.    It's not supposed to rise at all so it has to be pricked.   When you put all that together you get a very, very easy recipe.   And yet, I've never tried to make it before.   Passover starts tomorrow night.    Matzo has two identities.   One, it is supposed to be the extremely quick travel bread that the Jewish slaves slapped together for the road when they were in such a hurry that they didn't have time to let it rise.   But it is also referred to as the "bread of our affliction."   And if you look back at the ingredient list - exactly the same as for paste - you kind of get that point as well.   In other words it really doesn't taste very good.   Anyhow, after all these years, I decided to try it myself.   I specifically decided not to look up a recipe.   What's to look for?    It's flour and water.   It's made fast.   It's pricked.   End of story.

My approach:  

Preheat oven to 450F.   Then quickly mix 100g AP flour with 65g water, roll it out, prick with a fork all over, and put in the oven (I used a perforated pizza tray.)   Bake until slightly brown.  Show your kids.   My son is eating it now.   Delicious he tells me.   Right. 

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I wasn't planning on posting today, nor on making a four pound loaf, but sometimes things happen.   My two aims for the day were to make something from Maggie Glezer's book, which I recently purchased, and something with a fair amount of whole wheat.   So I picked Thom Leonard's Country French Bread, without reading the whole way through.    I noticed at the flour part that I was pouring a lot of flour into the bowl, but I figured that it would call for cutting into multiple loaves later in the day.   By the time I got to that point I realized that I was making a miche in all but name.   And this after I steadfastly avoided the miche craze of the winter.  This is a lot o' bread.   Oh my.

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Sometimes it's all about the flour.   I have two bags of flour in my cupboard that I've been dying to use.   One is a 00 flour that I unexpectedly found carried by an store in the center of town.   Lexington, Massachusetts isn't exactly a food town.   The only bread bakery in town carries vast yeasty undercooked loaves that make me gag.   And an Italian grocery / sandwich shop has been there for 2 years without me ever setting food in it.   I simply didn't believe it would be worth my while.   It was.   Ergo 00 flour - surprise, surprise.  The second flour was a bag of semolina that I picked up on my food excursion to Watertown in an Armenian grocery.   I didn't need it - I already had two bags of semolina at home.   Ah well, I buy flour like some people buy shoes.   I know that 00 flour is for pizza.   At this point I really know it since I made pizza dough the other day and handed it off to the resident pizza chef and it was really remarkable - crisp and light.  But I wanted to make bread.    And came upon a recipe on King Arthur - - that uses both KA Italian Style flour and semolina.   I had to try it.   I converted to weight and metric and made a few more changes - I am reducing salt by around half nowadays for health reasons in all my breads; added more water than called for just to get the dough to adhere; and used 00 instead of the Italian style.   Here is the formula:


00 flour




















non-diastatic malt powder





Olive oil










sesame to sprinkle










Mix all ingredients but sesame and knead for 5 minutes


(used Kitchen Aid for kneading)




Bulk ferment in bowl until puffy




Cut in three sections, roll out, and braid



Cover and proof until double




Spritz with water and sprinkle with sesame seeds



Bake for 27 minutes at 400 with some steam at the beginning






I forgot the step in the original where the dough rests for 30 minutes between mixing and kneading.  

This results in a soft tender bread which has the subtle flavor of its flours.   Not flashy, but really good.   Also quite a large loaf - fifteen inches long.

And the flour:


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A recent blog post made me sit up and take notice. shows two loaves; one made with steam at the beginning of the bake, the second steamed later in the process.   The first one looks better by a lot.   Lately I've been making batards with two cuts.   The most frequent outcome is that one of the cuts opens nicely and takes most of the bloom of the loaf, and the second opens a bit, and then seals over.   In trying to diagnose this I thought it might be either a shaping or a steaming issue.    So I changed my batard shaping so that instead of rolling toward me (a la Ciril Hitz) I roll away (a la Mark from the Back Home Bakery).   The latter method seems to allow me to get a tighter gluten sheath so I'm sticking with it.   However, it didn't seem to solve the problem.   Yesterday, I decided to see if more steam at the beginning of the bake would help.   I made a pain au levain (almost the same as Hamelman p. 158 but with higher hydration 69% vs 65%, higher percentage of prefermented flour 17% vs 15% and a lot less salt.)   The only change I made to my regular baking process was to add a dry broiler pan underneath the stone during preheat, and fill it with water at the same time as loading the loaves.   This is in addition to my usual loaf pans filled with water and wet towels which I place on each side of the stone.  Here is the result:


Not a perfect loaf by any means, but the first time in recent memory where my cuts opened evenly.   Should I attribute this to the extra steaming at the beginning of the bake?  I think so.


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Last week, Lynnebiz and I decided that since we weren't likely to get to Viet Nam or other exotic locales anytime soon, we would explore close to home.   So we took a food excursion to Watertown, Massachusetts.    Watertown, like all the towns around here, was settled by Europeans in the 1600s - in fact in 1630 only ten years after the original European settlement at Plymouth.   However, its face is continually changing as wave after wave of immigrants arrives.   This makes it particularly attractive for people who love good bread, and authentic food in general.    Today it is an ordinary middle class workaday town just outside of the city of Boston.   After having worked in downtown Boston for a couple or years, I thought I was being exiled to Siberia when I got a new job in Watertown - but I quickly found that I could eat better in Watertown than I had in Boston.   That was ten years ago, and if anything the situation has only gotten better.    The first stop on our excursion was to Arax, an Armenian grocery.

Workaday street by Arax Market

Wall of spices at Arax - remind me never to buy spices in the supermarket again

Second we went a few doors down to the Massis Bakery, also Armenian.   There we found:


cracker bread and pistachio treats

No, that's not a bagel - it's around 10 inches in diameter.

And my "travel" companion:

We moved on to an Iranian Bakery which was too dark inside to get much, but the window tells you something in itself -

and down the street to Sofra's which I'm told is some American entrepreneur's foray into the market:

They have interesting spices too - I got za'atar here for my Tunisian bread. 

I hope that Lynne will post too.   We went to several more places, and I didn't get everything.    So yes, the North End is nice, but so is this, and less on the beaten track. 


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